Well, it’s Monday! I woke up early this morning thinking and thanking. Thinking about the storm that passed and thanking God for sparing our lives once more. But there were some who were not spared. Some lost homes, and others their lives. We should remember them this morning and pray for them.
But quickly my thoughts once again focused in on the horrible virus still raging around us. Though the winds have stopped blowing, death is still in the air. How do we respond to this fear? We preach the good news of the gospel with the realization that it will trump any bad news that this life can throw at us – including the sting of death and the fear of hell. The apostle Paul makes the gospel crystal clear. Writing to the church at Corinth, he began chapter 15 with the words “Moreover brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).
I do not claim to be a Bible scholar, but I understand Paul’s words clearly. He says that what he is going to make known to the Corinthians, and to us, is the gospel. That is what the word “declare” means. He remined the Corinthian believers that he had preached the gospel to them and that they had received the gospel and now held firmly to it. His next few words shout to me. “By which also you are saved.”
The word “saved” does not mean a thing to us – nor will the gospel – unless we come to grips with the truth that we are lost. Lost! What does that mean? The Bible says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Roman 3:23). “Sin” means to miss the mark. God sets the mark that measures the standard of His character, His glory.
God’s standard is absolute perfection. This absolute perfection is called “righteousness.” Translation? We have all missed this mark. We have all sinned and come short of the righteousness that God requires for life before Him (Romans 6:23). The only way to have forever life is to be as good as God is. And obviously we cannot! We have already missed it. The only payment required by God for falling short of His mark is death – not physical death – but it will take another kind of death.
Death is never far from our thinking. It is appointed (an appointment that we are all going to keep) to man once to die and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The Bible calls death an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). It is an enemy that all fear. The writer of Hebrews calls this fear of death “a bondage” (Hebrews 2:15). If we say we do not fear death, we lie! And if we say we do not sin, we lie (1 John 1:8). We all live under the looming bondage of sin and death.
And then there is a judgment? I hear it! “I don’t believe in God, therefore I do not fear death or any impending judgment.” I get that, but Jesus said do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. He is saying that we do fear those who can kill our body. He continues, “But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28). The “Him” here is speaking of God. Jesus, the One Who spoke truth, said that we are to fear God because death and hell are real.
You may respond, “I don’t believe that.” If you are right, then you should not fear death, but the Bible says you do, and you should not fear the possibility of hell, but the Bible says you do. I choose to believe words coming from the Lord Jesus Christ because He conquered both death and hell, and He does not lie. In fact, Jesus spoke more of hell than any writer in the Bible. That’s hard to toss out.
He has been there and done that! The Bible calls physical death a shadow (Matthew 4:16; Luke 1:79). Words from my favorite song writer, the shepherd boy named David, come to mind. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). A shadow is just a reflection of the real. I would not fear getting hit by a shadow, would you?
But here is a truth that sets the stage for what is coming. We are taught not to look on things which are seen but the things that are not seen. The reason? The things that are seen are not the real. The real are the things which cannot be seen by our human eyes (2 Corinthians 4:18). Physical death is but a reflection of real death. Physical death is the separation of the soul and spirit from the body. That death does not hurt. Spiritual death – real death – is the separation of the soul, and the spirit from God – in hell. This is the death to fear because it has eternal consequences – very painful eternal consequences. The gospel is our only relief from the bondage of the fear of death and the fear of the impending judgment of hell. Stay safe and stay tuned.